You may recall a few weeks ago I optimistically, fingers-crossed, hoped that putting faded marigold flowers that resulted from deadheading around cucurbit plants would eliminate or at least reduce the amount of squash bug and borer damage. (See the “Will it Work?” post.) The fact that the squash plants were already growing amid the happy marigold plants probably should have been a clue. When I returned from vacation, here’s the early planted melon and squash vines’ appearance: All of the melon and squash vines, plus one planting of cucumbers were totally dead, whether they had marigold blooms piled on and round their bases or not. The watermelon and 2nd cucumber plantings look okay so far, and I’ll be watching them carefully now that I’m back, for those nasty squash bugs and borers. Meanwhile, all the offensive dead vines have been removed (but NOT put in the compost bins) and the undersides of young squash and melon plants sprayed with neem oil. Drats! I’d really, really hoped piles of marigolds would make a difference. Sigh!
The bean succession planting plan devised over the winter has had some altering due to weather, but there have been a bounty of various beans all season. A few new varieties were planted (to see the full list, click on this year’s plant list) among them the most recent harvest, “Hickok.” This variety was purchased from Territorial Seed Company for the sole reason that I’d never grown it before. Their catalog describes it as “Open pollinated. 55-65 days. The pinnacle in quality and flavor! Hickok’s straight, 6″ deep green, stringless beans taste very fresh and sweet with floral overtones and a mellow bean flavor. Healthy, uniform, 20″ plants provide a strong canopy of foliage to protect the beans, which hang down under the leaves for easy picking by the handfuls. Very productive over a long harvest season. White seeds.”
If you note the photo, “Hickok” is a indeed a very bright green, rather waxy in appearance. They form in pairs so are easy to pick, on sturdy plants about 20″ tall so they didn’t need support. It could be the weather conditions (very hot and dry although I watered) but all the beans were very narrow at the top inch or so, and they weren’t entirely stringless. Compared to all the other varieties this season, they were short (that’s a regular credit card to give a size comparison) and none came close to the 6″ described by the catalog. I was a bit late picking due to travel, so beans had formed but the pods were still tender. Most disappointing was the flavor, which was lacking, as in no flavor at all. This is the first bean variety that received a “thumbs down” and won’t be grown in the potager again. Space is at a premium, and crops must earn the right to be there!
It’s been another very hot, humid week here in central Indiana, with barely a sprinkle of rain. In the potager, the harvest continues unabated due to regular watering. Along with all the crops shown in prior posts, some new ingredients are making their way into the kitchen to provide a much-appreciated variety to the menu. (D’s comment “Beans AGAIN?” sums up his opinion.) The first of the French Fingerling potatoes were dumped from their pots. It was certainly a lot easier than digging them, and the soil from the pots was used to top off a harvested bed of shallots and kohlrabi for replanting in fall crops. So far the “POT-ato Patch” seems to be a winning technique, although yields are low. I won’t blame the pot method as the weather has been horrid, and will definitely do it again next year. After harvesting cherry tomatoes since late June, the first full-sized tomato, an early variety called “Siletz” provided the season’s first BLT’s and they were delicious! Hard to tell from the photo but they are about 3″ in diameter. The other early variety, “Polbig” has larger tomatoes and more of them, but are not ripening yet. The “La Romas” are beginning to turn color, so tomatoes will be plentiful very soon. Also plentiful are these watermelons, which I’m calling “Mystery Melons.” I purchased a pricey “seedless” watermelon called “Twilight.” They came with colored “pollinator” seeds and instructions to plant one colored and one plain seed per pot or hill. These were seeded in pots, but only one plant per pot germinated. They were planted in bed 6a and the vines are spreading nicely with a lot of fruit set. However, all the melons are striped like the one in the photo. “Twilight” is shown in the catalog as dark green, so I suspect all the watermelons are the “pollinator” variety provided. Now to wait and see…are they going to be small or giants when ripe? Will they have a decent flavor? A gazillion seeds? Only time will tell. Happily there are other melons coming along that are what they are supposed to be. My favorite, the “Green Nutmeg” will soon be ready, along with “Tasty Bites,” “Lilliput” and “Minnesota Midget.” I love these mini-melons and can hardly wait until they are ripe. The shallots have all been harvested and some were braided after careful inspection. Normally there are about 30 braids; this year only 11! For some reason, many of the shallots didn’t divide into separate shallots, but made many parts inside one “skin” resulting in a 3″ diameter bulb! These are already showing signs of spoilage, so I peeled and parted, cleaned and canned them marinated in balsamic vinegar and rosemary like the cippollini. I’ve never had such huge shallots before, and that’s not a good thing. On the other hand, the garlic has never been so small! It’s all been dug now and is curing out of the sunlight on a drying rack in the Lady Cottage. There will still be more than enough for our use and plenty to plant this fall, but only “Mary Jane” (top shelf) and “Killarney” (3rd shelf down) had nicely sized heads. “Deerfield Purple,” “Rosewood,” and “Romanian Red” are normally just as large. I suspect the difference is in the watering…”Mary Jane” and “Killarney” were planted with broccoli which was watered often.
So that’s my six observations for this Saturday. To see more harvests and interesting “Six” topics, visit The Propagator, who hosts this meme.
Someone asked me recently which garden tool I use most. The answer might vary slightly with the season and the stage of the garden, but #1 is my rolling gardening stool, because at my age and with an iffy back, I can’t garden without it. I thought #2 would be my CobraHead because I use it to dig planting holes, lever out weeds, make furrows for seeding, edging beds and covering seeds. However, surprisingly it is a pair of kitchen scissors! Not a bucket, or a shovel, or pruners, but plain old, sturdy kitchen scissors!
Keeping track of tool usage was illuminating for me. I was amazed at how often those scissors were in my hand! Vines are growing like crazy, so I’m cutting twine for climbing supports and tying up tomatoes. I use scissors to clip grass along all the flower beds. Scissors cut the twine when I’m braiding garlic and shallots. Scissors harvest herbs, lettuce, spinach and kale leaves and deadhead violas, calendulas and marigolds. Scissors take cuttings of anything I want to propagate and detach seed heads for drying.
Scissors cut pretty flowers for bouquets and ugly leaves off fading cucumber vines, not to forget they cut off the cucumbers and squashes and peppers when they are ready as well. This week I was reminded of an old technique for handling weeds. The neighbors were really behind in weeding their veg garden. In trying to pull up weeds nearly as tall as the crops, the bean plants were coming up with the weeds since the roots were all entangled. I advised them to simply scissor off the weeds at ground level. The crops will shade the decapitated weeds. The bean roots will not be disturbed so they will grow quickly. By the time the weeds have regrown, the crops will be harvested and the beans can be tilled under. Yes, some folks still use a tiller, although I don’t/won’t. Scissoring can be much faster than hand weeding in a desperate situations like theirs. Sturdy scissors cut the cardboard into strips to lay under the mulch for the last bit of the berry rows, and the twine for attaching the berry canes to the support wires.
Today, my fingers were sore from stemming beans. The answer was to use a pair of scissors, which made the task much quicker & easier. I will probably never use my fingernails for that again. Still learning in my old age!
Just to ease your mind, I do keep rubbing alcohol in the Lady Cottage to clean the scissors after clipping anything that might be questionable so disease isn’t transferred to healthy plants. And there are more than one pair, so one pair does indeed stay in the kitchen, one pair hangs in the Cottage, and another pair stays always-at-the-ready in the garden stool.
Does it seem to you that we just wrote a “Six on Saturday” a day or two ago? The days are whizzing by, which is why it’s important to take a moment and breathe deeply, especially if there are lilies like these nearby. This morning I woke early, made my tea, and moved a chair near the Front Garden just so I could absorb the heavy perfume of the trumpet lilies. They will be gone soon, so I need to make a point to enjoy them while they are here. The growing season is half over, and it feels as though it’s been a blink in time. So that’s #1…imprinting special moments in the garden because it will be an entire year before one can enjoy them again. #2 is celebrating the firsts! Many of you will laugh, and rightly so, but I’m celebrating this (albeit tiny) first harvest of black currants. I’ve never grown them before, but I adore them. I’m down to my last jar of Black Currant jelly from England, and granted this tiny child-sized handful will not be enough to make a batch of jelly, but it will be enough to infuse some black tea, and I love black currant tea dearly. #3 is “Embrace the mess!” Just look at my cottage! Suddenly, both the shallots and garlic had to be harvested. In the case of the garlic, it went from “Look! I have scapes!” to rotting in spots almost overnight. Most of the garlic heads are smaller than I’ve ever harvested before…probably a combination of a long, hard winter with little root growth, followed by a very dry spring. In any case, all of it is in the shed curing so there’s barely room to walk, let alone rock. I’ve just begun to braid the shallots and hang them on the walls, so eventually there will be a clear path to the rocker. By then the garlic will be cured and can be braided as well. #4) Be happy with what is! Curiously, most of the shallots are much larger than usual. It seems many of them grew three or four parts in one huge bulb, rather than splitting into 3 or 4 separate bulbs. And most of them that did separate only made 3 or 4 shallots rather than 5-8, which is what I normally get. Anyone know why they didn’t separate as usual? Regardless of the cause, I’ve learned that these huge shallot bulbs just don’t keep, so I won’t bother braiding them. They may have to be processed into chopped shallots for the freezer soon or turned into shallot vinegar. Often I would grumble about rotting garlic and imperfect shallots, but I’m opting for the “at least there’s something; it is what it is!” attitude this year. #5) Keep moving forward. The garlic harvest created space for winter squash seed to be planted. They’ll be able to sprawl as the cauliflower and broccoli come out. You’ve no doubt noticed my elegant watering system. Yes, it’s dry again so instead of dragging hoses I’ve rigged a sprinkler which will cover nearly 1/4 of the potager at a go. Some of my friends quit planting this time of year when it’s hot and dry, but moving forward with succession planting means there will be harvest well into fall, so here it continues without a break. #6 Anticipation! My daughter always tells me I should spend more time planning for a trip, because “anticipation is one of the best parts of traveling!” Anticipation is certainly one of the best parts of gardening. Seeing this baby watermelon fills me with anticipation. I check it every day and think about the first bite, the first watermelon sangria, the first watermelon salsa. All through the garden, there is anticipation and promise. It’s such a giggle!
That’s my six lessons from the garden for this week. To see what other gardeners are thinking about or growing or harvesting, go to The Propagator, who hosts this meme.
This Monday’s harvest looks pretty much like recent harvests taking place about every two days from the potager. Top left are “Provider” beans, which just keep producing pounds and pounds of beautiful beans. Even prettier are the “Velour” French fillet beans. This was their second picking and there were over 4 pounds. Last bean, top right are “Strike” which are slowing down & will be clipped off on their next picking. The peas (far left) are “Sabre” and “Legacy” both of which was their final picking. Two “Majestic” cauliflowers and a big head of “Blue Wind” broccoli are joined in the box by 3 not-so-pretty “Parisian” cucumbers. I think they needed more water. That’s the first carrots for this year, “Danvers Half-Longs” which were too close to the edge of the raised bed now that its so dry again. In the plastic bag are 1 1/2 c. of black raspberries….still not enough for a batch of jam, but maybe after the next picking. Total yield for the day: 17 lbs. Not shown are what took most of my day (and we had a “Heat Advisory” day again, so I was taking it slow!) which was pulling all the shallots (11 trays) and digging the first diagonal of garlic (2 trays) which was “Rosewood.” I’ll weigh them after they are cured and braided.
That’s my “Harvest Monday,” the first for July. To see what others are harvesting, go to Our Happy Acres, the host for this meme.
It seems June flew by in a whiz, so it’s good to take a moment to look back and review, and evaluate how the gardens fared this month. After a very dry April and May, June had enough well-spaced rain that there was no dragging of hoses. That’s a good thing, because there were lots of other tasks to accomplish, like planting lots of annuals that didn’t get in the ground in May! Keen gardeners will notice that there are lots of bare spaces where bulbs were in May in the Front Island Garden. I ran out of marigolds, and have more growing in flats, but they are only budded and won’t be planted until I know which plant is which color. That’s a drawback of planting a mixture, in this case marigold “Durango Mix” but I love using the various colors in groupings here and there and don’t want the expense of buying a lot of packets of separate colors. The best thing about June to me is the coming of the lilies: daylilies, Asiatic lilies and Oriental lilies which are abundant throughout all my gardens. The Front Garden has not gotten a makeover because the gardener is indecisive. The dead boxwoods were removed and replaced with zinnias. Looking at the photo, possibly more zinnias should be added. The Deck Garden was a sea of white “May Queen” shastas in May, so it’s undergone quite a color change. Dwarf marigolds will be added along the sidewalk and there are lots of daylilies yet to come. The potager is packed inside, but the exterior border needs more annuals. There are lots of zinnias planted but not yet in bloom, and the marigolds need to be added. Plus, I think I’ll add more “Caramel” heucheras in the front. There are a couple on the far end that are doing well, and I love that foliage. Inside the potager, the interior borders filled in nicely. This section is transitioning. You may see the 6″ tall okra along the fence that were set in when the fava beans came out. There are some empty spots in the front where lettuces were harvested and the new crops have not been inserted. We’re under a “Heat advisory,” so it’s not a good time to plant and have to water constantly. You might barely notice the new dahlia just beginning to open. I’m eager to see what it looks like in reality, having only seen it in the catalog. This is not my favorite time in the potager. The fresh look of spring that was so delightful in May is turning into that weary look of summer. Bed 1c looks messy because the shallots are beginning to fall over. I’ll be much happier when they are harvested and new, upright crops can take their place. Same case for the browning garlic in the bed below. Those watermelons will be very ecstatic to see them go and so will I! In Bed 2b (the front one in this photo) the Italian dandelions and Swiss chard on the corners will stay, but as soon as the “Candy” onions come out, space-loving winter squashes will go in, so I haven’t replanted the triangle where bok choy was harvested. And for right now, the lettuces that are bolting in 3b are providing some shade for the cauliflowers, so they get to stay a bit longer. Here in bed 3c, I’m enjoying the color contrasts provided by the “Alkindus” lettuces, “Primero” red cabbage, the taller tomatoes, bright yellow violas and the climbing vines of the “Green Nutmeg” melons. Potager beds can be packed, so there’s no room for weeds! This photo exemplifies the potager as June ends. Notice the ugly browning garlic? That won’t be there much longer and there are “Mad Hatter” pepper plants eager to take its place, or carrots or beets. The “Blue Wind” broccoli and “Aspabroc” will stay as long as they continue to produce side shoots, but as the cauliflower is ready (See the one in the center front with its leaves folded over the head to blanch it?) those plants will come out to make way for more winter squashes. The “Outredgeous” lettuces are just beginning to bolt, so they’ll be eaten as fast as possible and replaced by “Dragon Tongue” beans. Throughout the garden the transition is taking place as spring peas are replaced by new plantings of “Baby Bear” pumpkins, “Butterscotch” squash or quicker crops like these “Hickok” beans that are just beginning to bloom. Beans will continue to be planted through the month of June so that fresh ones can be eaten rather than opening one of the dozens of cans already on the shelves from the April and May plantings. And now for the numbers…the total harvest from the potager just for the month of June is 104.5 pounds! Of course that doesn’t include munchies sneaked by the gardener as she worked, or bouquets picked as those are just “bonus.” And “no,” it’s not a competition with anyone else, only with the past which was blown away. No harvest records were kept in the potager’s first season (2016) but June’s total for 2017 was a mere 43.5 pounds. The weather certainly doesn’t account for all of it, because it’s been crappy most of this year. (Too cold, too dry, and now too hot!) The main reason, I feel, is that good planting records were kept and studied. Best performing varieties were chosen from last year’s planting lists, planting dates were tweaked, and succession timing was refined which all resulted in more production. The potager’s harvest for this season so far: 131 lbs. (2017: 57.5 lbs.) All in all, June was an excellent, busy, beautiful, productive month. July appears to be a scorcher, at least at the start. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.